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Invest in agriculture, grow our future

Invest in agriculture, grow our future

OPINION  When the pandemic began this past year many folks adjusted to life at home. But farmers, processors and other agricultural-community members were on the frontlines.

Wisconsin farmers have been essential workers for centuries – in times of peace, war, pandemic or recession. Our crop, dairy and meat producers have kept Wisconsin fed. Recognizing that fact, we know what’s good for the agricultural community is good for our state. That’s why at World Dairy Expo we introduced a comprehensive bill package to invest almost $25 million into Wisconsin farmers and agriculture.

The “Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future” bill package will directly support our farmers, strengthen their ties to our communities and create new markets. The five bills help meet the diverse needs of agricultural stakeholders.

The pandemic has seen Farm-to-Fork and Farm-to-School programs become increasingly popular and necessary. Connecting local produce, meat and dairy to Wisconsin dinner tables and lunchrooms is a win-win. The Farm-to-School initiative will prioritize school districts where a large percentage of students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunches. Similarly the Farm-to-Fork program helps farmers partner with hospitals, nursing homes and other large cafeterias to ensure more residents enjoy locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Wisconsin-grown food fosters an appreciation for farmers and the agricultural process while promoting good eating habits.

We’re also committed to finding ways for farmers to access new markets while helping their communities. For example the Food Security and Wisconsin Products Grant Program will award grants to food banks and nonprofits to purchase Wisconsin-grown food, supporting our state’s agricultural industry and those struggling to put food on the table.

Expanding the “Something Special from Wisconsin” initiative builds upon the two previous proposals by prominently featuring Wisconsin-made products in grocery stores and delis across the country. Additionally the Meat Talent Development Program seizes the opportunity in meat processing to forge Wisconsin’s legacy as an animal-agriculture state. Incentivizing young people to enter this promising industry will help diversify our meat-product lines and create new family-supporting jobs.

And our proposal provides farmers with additional regional consultation services to assist with production, marketing and regulation questions. We want the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to be as effective as possible in helping farmers with their problems when they ask.

We’re proud to be America’s Dairyland. To move our state forward, farm families and rural residents should have the tools they need to succeed. The investments we’re making aren’t just for the here-and-now but for the next generation of rural prosperity in our state.

Brad Pfaff represents the 32nd Senate District as a member of the Democratic Party, where he serves as Ranking Member of the Committee on Agriculture and Tourism. He's the former Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Wis. Rep. Dave Considine of Baraboo, Wisconsin, represents the 81st District as a member of the Democratic Party.

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